Sunday, March 23, 2008

Is Goa underselling itself?

Is Goa underselling itself?

Some weeks back V M de Malar wrote in Herald about Goa going the Bali way where the locals are outnumbered by the outsiders who own the hotels and a lot of the prime land.

I sent the article to, among others, my friend Justine Andrews, from the Isle of Wight, who has been holidaying in Goa every year for the past nine years. Here is her reaction. I quote with her permission.

- Cecil Pinto

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I think it's potentially a problem, but I'm not convinced that it will extend far beyond the beach belt and that encouraging long term commitment to the state and the country might help.

Better that someone is investing in Goa than no-one, but how to get the right sort of investment? Not sure I know the answer! Perhaps through the planning permission system - is there one? I think that there should be long term planning about tourism in Goa. I realise this sounds like me saying all tourists should be like us, but here goes.... We both fee that Goa under-sells itself to tourists. When we first came to Goa we stayed at the XXXXXX (Hotel name changed - Cecil) on a package, it wasn't cheap, but it was good value considering how far away we had come. The service from the staff was fantastic - very professional, but also friendly and welcoming. We went home describing Goa as affordable luxury. Our next visit
(two years later) confirmed our opinion, but over the years the standards of service went down. The "old hands" who had been there for years were still excellent, but newer staff weren't trained to the same standard and then they got rid of the staff who'd been there for a long time (too expensive). It wasn't that the service was bad, but they didn't make it extra special. We used to sit up in the bar before dinner, watching the sun go down. The drinks would be served with a small bowl of crispy nibbles and you never had to top your own glass up, later you got your glass and your beer/wine. It's not a big difference, but to me it's the difference between
5* and 3*. I feel that this coincided with the rise of the "all inclusive" holiday. These holidays tend to attract the beer and chips with everything type of holiday maker. When we heard a man who was a head teacher telling someone that he "didn't really like Indian food" that just about summed it up for me. At the end of our stay the reception staff felt the need to explain why our bill was so "high" (about £200 I think). We had had wine and had eaten at the not all inclusive restaurant and I had several ayurvedic treatments - we thought the bill was completely reasonable, but it seemed as though they were used to people getting upset at having to pay
anything at the end of their stay.
I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this - just rambling really - or whether I've really answered any of the points made, but I do feel that the industry should be playing up the "added value" side of things to encourage the sort of tourist who wants to appreciate Goa for what it is rather than just spending two weeks by the pool eating and drinking.



Sorry I missed something out of my thoughts about "all inclusives". From what I understand it's the tour operators that make the money - the hotels actually lose out because they're not taking the money direct (e.g. our "huge" £200 hotel bill). So neither Goans or foreigners investing in Goa make the real money, but the tour operators in the U.K., Russia, Germany, where ever and they seem to be far less interested in what's good for Goa than (say) I would be if I'd just invested my life savings in a business there.
Ramble over


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(Originally posted at The Goan Forum )

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